GREEN BAY — Turns out, David Bakhtiari did have a setback in his comeback from his knee injury after all.
Despite the Green Bay Packers repeatedly insisting the five-time All-Pro left tackle had not suffered a setback in his comeback from the torn ACL he suffered in his left knee last Dec. 31 and the reconstructive knee surgery he had last January, a source confirmed an NFL Network report that Bakhtiari recently underwent an arthroscopic surgery to “clean up” his knee.
What exactly happened with Bakhtiari’s knee to require the procedure is unclear, but coach Matt LaFleur already has ruled him out for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field and said the team is hoping Bakhtiari will return after he’s evaluated following the team’s Week 13 bye. After the bye, the Packers will have five regular-season games remaining, starting Dec. 12 against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
NFL Network reported the Packers are hoping Bakhtiari will return for the stretch run, but a source told the State Journal last week the Packers realize there are three possibilities for their franchise tackle: returning sometime after the bye; returning only for the playoffs; or not playing at all this season.
“There’s certainly a plan, but not everything goes as planned all the time,” LaFleur said Monday. “He won’t be out there this week. We’ll just see where he’s at after the bye. We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to come back this year at some point.
“It certainly isn’t for a lack of work ethic on his part. It’s not for a lack of toughness. It’s just one of those things where you never quite know how everybody’s going to respond to the recovery process, and I think that’s just where we’re at with him.”
Bakhtiari seemed to be on course to return when he began practicing on Oct. 20, when the Packers opened the three-week practice window for players who are on the physically unable to perform list. The team activated him from the PUP list on Nov. 10, but LaFleur cautioned just because Bakhtiari had been added to the active roster didn’t necessarily mean he would return to game action immediately.
Bakhtiari practiced the first two days leading up to the Nov. 14 game against the Seattle Seahawks, then sat out that Friday’s practice and was listed as doubtful for the game before being a game-day inactive before the Packers’ 17-0 win over the Seahawks.
“Him being out there, from what I’ve seen of him in practice so far, there’s flashes where he looks great,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said on Nov. 17. “It’s just going to be a matter of can he sustain that for a game? That’s going to be the hardest thing because he didn’t have camp, he didn’t have anything built up. Practices are limited right now. So, that’s going to be his biggest challenge is getting to a place where he can sustain that performance for an entire game. That’s part of what we evaluate right now and that’s probably going to be probably the biggest question.”
Bakhtiari then did not practice all of last week entering last Sunday’s 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings and was officially ruled out of that game on Friday, when the final injury report of the week came out. Presumably, the scope on Bakhtiari’s knee happened sometime after that Friday before the Seattle game.
Then came Monday, when LaFleur immediately ruled Bakhtiari out — even in the aftermath of losing left guard-turned-left tackle Elgton Jenkins, who tore the ACL in his left knee against the Vikings last Sunday — even though LaFleur normally withholds such proclamations about a player’s status in an effort to force the upcoming opponent to prepare for the possibility of that player suiting up on Sunday.
“We’ve been wanting Dave to come back for awhile. And he’s just not quite ready,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on his usual Tuesday appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio. “(And) obviously losing Elton doesn’t make us a better football team.”
Without Bakhtiari and Jenkins, the Packers went to Yosh Nijman at left tackle against the Vikings, just as they did earlier in the year when Jenkins missed three games with an ankle injury. Nijman, who’d played just 14 regular-season snaps in his NFL career before this season, will start against the Rams.
“We’ve got to get healthy. We’ve got a lot of injuries,” Rodgers told McAfee. “(Jenkins) is so talented. He’s started at center for us, left guard, left tackle, played right tackle last year in the opener. I mean, he’s such a talented player. Kind of similar to Dave, (it was a) very freak injury.
“I’m disappointed for him. He’s such a great kid, such a talented player. He means so much to us from an energy standpoint and just his play style. … To be so reliable at left tackle, it’s just so rare in this league to be able to do that.”
Meanwhile, Rodgers discussed his own toe injury during his appearance, though in the back-and-forth with McAfee and ex-Packers inside linebacker A.J. Hawk it wasn’t completely clear what the injury is or how it happened.
Toward the end of his appearance, McAfee and Hawk kept calling the injury “COVID Toe,” which actually is a real thing — a malady associated with COVID-19, which Rodgers tested positive for on Nov. 3.
“COVID Toe” is similar to chilblains — painful red or purple lesions that typically emerge on fingers or toes in the winter.
While Rodgers ultimately didn’t clarify what’s happening with his toe, he reiterated it is not a case of turf toe, which is a dislocation of the big toe and very painful, as wide receiver Davante Adams, who suffered the injury in 2019, can attest. Rodgers said after last Sunday’s game that what he’s dealing with now is more painful than turf toe, which he has also dealt with during his career.
“This is something that’s not going to go away. It’s something I’ll deal with, I’m not sure what the bye week is going to look like,” Rodgers said.. “There’s a lot of options on the table. One option that’s not on the table is sitting out. I’m going to push through this and keep playing. … I’m going to be dealing it for at least the next few weeks.”
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